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Summer makes SF cool again & ‘extreme heat’ hysteria masks big cause of deaths
Correct Dennis Wyatt mug 2022
Dennis Wyatt

San Francisco boosters believe they have 105 reasons why you should venture to the city by the bay.

It’s been the temperature of some of our days this summer in the San Joaquin Valley. Meanwhile, San Francisco is often in the mid 60 degrees thanks to the city’s unique location of being surrounded by frigid ocean water on three sides and warm air above.

The opposite is true in winter, especially when the 450-mile long Central Valley’s own geographic oddity of being surrounded by mountains coupled with moist soil and higher air temperature 1,000 feet above creates our unique tule fog.

It can be a flat line 42 to 46 degrees over a 24/7 period when tule fog conditions are right in the valley while San Francisco warms up to the mid-70s in the dead of winter.

Anyone who gets around much in this neck of the proverbial woods in Northern California is well aware of twists on regional weather pattern expectations.

Even so, the folks at Pier 39, who charged $5 for a glass of soda decades before fast-food minimum wages went up are reminding Valley folks just how cool San Francisco is and that’s not figuratively.

Pier 39’s advertising this summer includes billboards in a few inland cities touting “It’s Cooler on the Bay.” The billboard features a huge photograph of one of the famous sea lions that have taken over the docks at Pier 39.

The fact that the billboard relegates the word “San Francisco” to almost footnote status seems almost a concession to how the city’s brand has become a bit tarnished in recent years with those fleeing the Bay Area to reside in the more affordable and less congested Central Valley.

In fairness to San Francisco – at least those who are homeless and openly using drugs on the streets there – aren’t roasting when summer rolls around.

Day tripping to San Francisco was a bit more popular back when parking your car there for part of one day wasn’t more costly than paying for a tank of gas to fill up a medium-sized SUV. At least back then, the progressives who ran city politics acted like they liked those who headed to the city via the Carquinez Straits or over the Altamont Pass in fossil-fueled vehicles.

Now the progressives are holding their noses a bit and targeting inland Californians within driving distance as opposed to out-of-state visitors who fly into the Bay Area and use Uver, Lyft, and public transportation to get around.

The things one has to do when your No. 1 industry is tourism.

But this isn’t about the cultural wars, left versus right, or even day-to-day issues that aren’t really much different in San Francisco than they are in Stockton.

It’s about the heat. Or more precisely, it is about the perception of heat.

Do not misunderstand. It is hot. That said, some like it hot. To be honest, people survived just fine a century ago without air conditioning in homes or cars. And they did so in dressed as if they were going to church on Sunday. Acclimation has a lot to do with it.

We no longer have summer porches, homes cooled by large shady trees, or houses designed with cross ventilation via windows to take advantage of local air movements such as Delta breezes.

Instead, we have sealed tombs that are temperature controlled by paying a week’s salary to utility companies.

We go from air conditioned car to air conditioned workplace to air conditioned home. It’s jarring to a body — think internal organs such as the heart — to step from 70 degree artificially cooled air into 100 degree heat and back into 70 degree temperature.

That’s a sudden 30-degree plunge or jump in temperature.

Of course, we are being told daily we are now experiencing “extreme” heat.

Depending upon the scientific data, the average global surface temperatures starting with the year 1850 – there were no year-to-year records before that – is up 1.5 to 2 degrees. Not dismissing the data, but how much more dangerous and uncomfortable is 104 degrees than 100 degrees?

Heat is serious stuff, just like the cold. That is why you need to employ common sense. And, yes. Both can be more dangerous for the very young, the very old, and those who are ill.

It has always been that way.

But there is a frenzy being whipped by the carpet bombing of weather stories these days with the adjective “extreme” in front of the word “heat.”

There is also a shock approach to covering heat-related deaths in places like Phoenix.

The average high in Phoenix is 104 degrees in June, 106 degrees in July, and 105 degrees in August.

That is the air temperature taken at a universal set distance off the ground.

Ground temperature and radiant heat is another story.

As Phoenix keeps growing there is more asphalt, concrete, buildings, and such put in place. Such material absorbs and radiates heat. It increases the temperature and heat misery. It’s called the heat island effect.

The higher heat in “hot spots” isn’t as much a function of climate change as it is our collective stupidity of how we urbanized.

People have always died in the heat and always will.

And it’s not just tourists thinking they’re in Disneyland venturing out to hike in Death Valley at high noon on July 4 dressed as if they’re going to the beach while carrying a small bottle of water.

While heat-related illness and deaths are up in California based on data collected by the Centers for Disease Control, the number of deaths has been going up and down for years.

The 2022 data, for example, showed California with a heat-death rate of just under 4.2 per million residents compared to 5.1 per million in 2007.

More telling was a September 2023 report by public health figures gleaned by CDC data.

The media and the vast echo chambers of the Internet went bonkers when year-to-year heat-related deaths increased for the fourth consecutive year nationally.

What they nicely downplayed – or outright ignored – was the following statement, “an increase in drug use and homelessness is a significant part of the problem.”

While temperatures were reported on the rise in various locations, the reported noted so was homelessness and the use of drugs.

High on the drug abuse list is meth. Experts point to data that shows meth has become a major factor in heat-related illnesses and heat-related deaths. Meth causes body temperature to increase to dangerous levels. Combine that with heat and being homeless can be fatal.

If meth use — especially among the homeless — were to go away, the jump in per million deaths would be substantially less or not negligible.

CDC data shows 2018 and 2022 there were 140 deaths in California with both a heat-related illness and drug overdose as the cause. That was one in four of all deaths in which heat-related illness was an underlying or contributing factor of a death in California during that time period.

State data shows 13 percent of all hospitalizations involve a primary diagnosis of heat-related illness in California from 2017 through 2022 involved homeless people.

Just like crediting Mark Twain for crafting the line “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco” is erroneous, so is making climate change the “heavy,” per se, in the spike in heat-related deaths.

—  This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Courier or 209 Multimedia. He may be reached at